Raydiant’s new series, The Future of Shopping, interviews experts and thought leaders with a goal of better understanding what trends are shaping the ways consumers shop, the opportunities that are out there, and what organizations can do to be more competitive.
The following is an interview we recently had with Graham Cooke, Founder of Cafe Last
How has consumer shopping behavior evolved over the past 5 years?
I have been in the internet retail space since 2016 – as such, as I have since things change immensely! Notably, I have seen a huge influx of shoppers trusting e-commerce brands. I have also seen expectations from consumers rise as well, as well as a flood of new retailers entering the e-commerce space.
Like any other scenario, there are pros and cons – on one hand, more and more people are shopping online because nearly everyone is connected to the internet via their smartphones, tablets, and computers. This means more potential customers, more chances for word-of-mouth marketing, etc. The customer base is larger.
On the other hand, more and more retailers have entered the space, which increases customer expectations for their shopping experience and has the potential to erode margins if you do not position yourself correctly.
Fundamentally, this is a good thing as it forces brands to offer the best possible shopping experience to all of their customers. It is no longer enough to just be selling online – you have to be the best!
What are the top 3 trends shaping the ways consumers shop?
The top three trends that I see are as follows: Flexible payment options are a big one – customers expect to pay how they want to. Whether that is via credit card, Paypal, Financing, or a buy-now-pay-later system such as Affirm or Klarna. In the early to mid-2010s, customers were more likely to adapt to the payment methods you offered. Nowadays, because there is an abundance of online retailers, people want to pay with the methods they feel most comfortable with. If you don’t offer that for your goods or services, they will go with another seller who does.
Brand loyalty has also eroded in many sectors. Customers, especially Millennials and Gen Z-ers, feel less affinity for any single brand and are now looking for the best features and the best price. This provides an unprecedented opportunity for new brands to capture market share and disrupt the industry if they are willing to go above and beyond to serve their customer base. I have personally witnessed entrepreneurs enter competitive spaces like clothing and jewelry and profitably sell thousands of units – this means you can too.
Social media and influencer marketing have changed immensely. It is no longer an option to have a weak brand presence online. For many years, brands could skate by posting on their Facebook once a week, but this no longer cuts it!
This is especially true for younger shoppers who utilize platforms like TikTok to make purchases and is expected to grow moving forward. There is huge potential – Tapping into influencer marketing can be immensely profitable if done correctly and CPM rates are currently lower on TikTok than on established platforms like Facebook.
What’s the future of shopping?
The future of shopping is offering an unparalleled shopping experience with immense value. I foresee consumer demands becoming higher and higher as online shopping continues to grow. There will be an increase in brands vying for a finite amount of consumer dollars, so brands will have to compete every way they can.
Additionally, customers will expect to interact with their goods from the comfort of their living room in new and exciting ways. It is no longer acceptable to just have a few grainy images on your sales page – VR shopping is going to get bigger and bigger. Companies that drag their feet will suffer, while those who adapt and provide adequate media will thrive.
Customers are also becoming more adept at sniffing out potential bad actors so building social proof from brands and authoritative figures will be crucial moving forward. Customers want to see that real people are behind the company they are giving their money to and that real customers trust them. Invest in creating user-generated content and proper PR and this will help build your store.
What are 3 actionable steps an organization can take to prepare for the future?
Listen to what your customers are saying. Too many brands treat their customers as disposable, and this will be the downfall of many stores moving forward. Your customers often tell you what they want, but many people simply don’t listen.
There are corporations out there that spend tens of thousands of dollars to test consumers’ perceived wants, but then drop the ball when they tell them what they want. Every customer interaction is a chance to improve your brand, so listen to what your customers are saying and iterate your business processes of their feedback.
Stay technologically literate. Have you come across a store that looks like it was last updated in the ’90s? As things like virtual reality and consumer technology continue to improve, consumers are going to expect more media before making a purchase. Do not get complacent.
Competitors will continue to enter into the e-commerce space – if you don’t provide customers with the UX, media, and support that they want, other companies will. This is only going to change more rapidly going forward, so commit to staying up to date with the latest changes and trends or your brand will suffer in the long run.
Play the social media game. Even if you are not an expert, start now, and start building a community around your brand. It is a deciding factor for many consumers, and will only become more important in time. There are simple things you can do, like hiring a social media manager to actively post on the major social media platforms and respond to customer inquiries. The platforms will change going forward – looking at you, Myspace, but social media itself is not going anywhere. Companies that utilize these platforms properly will thrive.